2007.01 17 How about a tasty e-meal?

Written by David Green.

Feeling hungry? How about a nice, tasty e-meal?


By RICH FOLEY

Don’t you just love the way inventors keep coming up with new ideas to separate the lonely from their money? Last fall, there was the guy in Europe who had the brainstorm of selling compact discs with pre-recorded dinner conversations on them. The lonely could play them while they ate at home, pretending they were at a real restaurant, listening in on the dialogue of a family of complete strangers. Sounds a little pathetic, doesn’t it?

Now, a technology company in Chicago has taken that idea much further with the introduction of “The Virtual Family Dinner.” This system allows family members in different locations to share a “virtual” meal together with a system not unlike the video conferencing used today in some businesses.

Targeted at the elderly, the system would have a camera and microphone in the kitchen, as well as a video screen as small as a picture frame up to as large as a television screen (depending, I guess, on the size of your loneliness and bank account). Another family member (or members), miles or even states away, would have similar setups. When the system detects the elderly person preparing to eat, the other family members hooked to the system are notified, allowing them to go to their own kitchen. They can then see, converse with, or even eat their own meal along with their loved one.

An Associated Press story quotes Dadong Wan, a researcher for system developer Accenture Ltd. as saying, “We are trying to really bring back the kind of family interactions we used to take for granted.” You mean, before all the technological innovations made people too busy to spend time talking with their families?

Folks who see this system as a good idea think it could aid in keeping an eye on elderly family members who eat too little or the wrong foods, and might assist in helping the elderly stay in their own homes longer.

Others think it could result in a loss of privacy for the elderly, as well as being a way of compiling evidence to help prove their inability to live alone.

The people at Accenture hope to sell the system to government agencies and insurance companies, probably not great news to those already concerned about health care costs. Plus, they’re missing out on what could be a potentially much larger target audience: lonely single people with more money than good sense.

Think of the possibilities...what hungry, lonely single guy wouldn’t pay to have a virtual meal with say, Rachael Ray? The cooking diva would describe the tasty gourmet meal she’s preparing for herself while trying not to laugh at the microwave burrito and tater tots you’re having. Of course, the video screen on her side would be huge and divided into hundreds of small windows to accommodate all those willing to put up the money to participate.

Or how much would it be worth to you to be able to tell your friends you “had a drink with Jessica Simpson” last night? You’d have to leave out the part about how you drank a stale beer at your kitchen table while you watched Simpson on a video screen having a pastel-colored “girly drink” at some Hollywood hot spot.

Lonely single women are potential prospects for this type of idea, too. There’s probably enough of a market willing to pay to have a virtual connection with a male celebrity like Brad Pitt or George Clooney to make it worthwhile to pay the celebrity for their participation.

The more I consider this, the more applications I can think of for the technology. Lots of people might be willing to pay for a virtual relationship with sports stars, singers, etc. Politicians could use it in virtual fund-raisers. The possibilities are almost endless.

I suppose I should keep these plans to myself until I have a chance to contact the Accenture people and try to sell them on expanding their target market. I would think my ideas have an earnings potential in the millions, with a healthy chunk of that owed to me. I just hope they don’t decide to pay me in virtual money. Then I’d be the one stuck buying a virtual dinner.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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